Top Turkish officials on Sunday warned in an open letter signed by more than 100 retired admirals about the potential threat of an agreement regulating the use of Turkey’s main waterways.
Ankara’s approval last month of a plan to build a shipping canal in Istanbul comparable to the Panama or Suez Canal has sparked controversy over the 19336 Montroux Convention.
Canal Istanbul (Istanbul Canal) has called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan his “insane project” the most ambitious, seeing him transform Turkey’s infrastructure with new airports, bridges, roads and tunnels during his 16 years in power.
Turkish officials have argued that the new canal is crucial to the pressure on Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, the main route for world trade, which crossed more than 388,000 ships last year.
The waterway between Europe and Asia is tied to maritime traffic and there have been several shipping accidents in recent years.
Opponents, however, say the new canal initiative could undermine the Montrox agreement, in addition to the extremely harmful environmental impact predicted by some experts.
The conference ensured the free passage of civilian ships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Strait in both peace and war. It regulates the use of the Straits by military ships from non-Black Sea states.
The new canal allows the ship to sail through the Mediterranean and Black Seas without having to cross some of the stress covered by the treaty.
In their letter on Saturday, 104 retired admirals said it was “worrying” that the Montreux agreement was open to controversy, calling it an agreement that “best protects Turkish interests”.
They said, “We express our views on refraining from any kind of statement or action that could make the Montreux Convention controversial.”
The investigation opened
The letter generated a strong response from top government officials, while Ankara prosecutors have also launched an investigation.
Referring to the investigation, Erdogan’s top media aide Fahretin Altun said on Twitter, “Not only those who signed but also those who encouraged them will be held accountable before justice.”
The president said Erdogan is expected to resolve the issue at a meeting on Monday at 12:12 p.m.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the announcement was “a reminder of the coup.”
“They should know that our esteemed nation and its representatives will never allow this mentality to exist,” he tweeted.
The Turkish military, which has long seen itself as a guarantor of the country’s secular constitution, staged three coups between 1960 and 1970.
Erdogan’s government also survived Attempted coup In July 2001, it blamed followers of US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen.
The letter is being hailed as the most significant military intervention in politics since 2001.
The Defense Ministry said that the publication of such a memorandum serves no purpose other than “undermining democracy, negatively affecting the morale and motivation of members of the Turkish Armed Forces and appeasing our enemies”.
“We are fully confident that the independent Turkish judiciary will do what is necessary,” the ministry said.
“Knowledge of the pros and cons of international treaties and being fully aware of them, the Turkish Armed Forces cannot serve the ambitions, greed and personal goals of those who have no government position or responsibility.”
The proposed $ 9.8 billion Istanbul Canal will run 45 kilometers (26 miles) west of the Bosphorus.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party is one of the strongest opponents of the canal project for financial and environmental reasons.
In November, the home ministry launched an investigation into the mayor for protesting against the canal.
The minister’s property inspector’s investigation is “Since Canal or Istanbul” and “Canal Istanbul Needed?” Focused on posters with these sentences?
Stavros Cormperidis, head of the sea transport research team at the University of Plymouth, told Al Jazeera that the new route would affect global shipping.
“Looking at the supply chain, we understand from this incident Suez Canal closed Additional shipping can help a lot in worldwide shipping. The cost of the project will be much higher but it will help the traffic passing through the Bosphorus which is a very busy artery, ”said Comperidis.
He said the new canal could also ease environmental footprints on the Strait.
“But at the same time, a lot of people are saying that this kind of new canal will do some environmental damage to the area as it crosses some protected lakes,” he said.
“It’s not a black and white answer here, it’s what politicians want to do.”